Los Angeles Area rss

Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the LA Chowhound community.

New Dumpling Contenders

Having eaten xiao long bau (also known as soup dumplings) all over China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau, Eric Stone agrees with the hounds who love those at Din Tai Fung. But the xlb at Q Noodle House, a Taiwanese place in San Gabriel Square, he says, are his new favorite. The key: an excellent balance of dough, filling and juice.

Sadly, other stuff isn’t as good–noodle soup with shredded pork and preserved vegetable is good-not-great, and the potstickers “can’t make up their mind if they want to be gyoza or Shanghainese fried dumplings.” And if you want vegetables with your xlb, nothing compares to Din Tai Fung’s green beans.

A new place inside the San Gabriel Superstore offers excellent chicken potstickers, usually native to the Americanized Chinese restaurants of the Westside or San Fernando Valley. “Up to this point in time the designation of best chicken potstickers and fried dumplings in Los Angeles is akin to winning the title of the tallest midget in the circus,” says Chandavkl. The ones at Yum Cha, though, have super-tasty filling, good wrappers and come four for $1.50.

For regular potstickers (and very good xlb), Mei Long Village is a good spot.

Q Noodle House [San Gabriel Valley]
140 W. Valley Blvd., in 99 Ranch Market plaza, San Gabriel

Q Noodle House [Inland of LA]
18930 Gale Ave., Rowland Heights

Q Noodle House [Pasadena-ish]
148 E. Duarte Rd., Arcadia

Yum Cha [San Gabriel Valley]
inside San Gabriel Superstore
1635 S. San Gabriel Blvd., San Gabriel

Mei Long Village Restaurant
301 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel
626-284 4769

Board Links: Dumpling Contender
Best Chicken Potstickers

Q Up for Chicken and Kabobs

Inside Q Market are two meat departments, kosher and halal, and a tempting kabob stand. The halal side’s chicken is the best Smiling Ed says he’s found. They’ve also got lamb brains. In general, it’s a Persian market (stock up on saffron from Iran), and worth exploring.

Q Market & Produce Market [East San Fernando Valley]
17259 Vanowen St., between Balboa and White Oak, Van Nuys

Board Links: Q Market

Jumpin’ Fresh Sweet Shrimp

The Hump often pops up on best-sushi-restaurant lists, and The Oracle’s review definitely makes it sound deserving.

Let’s skip over the melt-in-your-mouth nigiri for a sec and go to the live sweet shrimp. Yes, many sushi restaurants have sweet shrimp, and you figure it was alive pretty recently because the sweet white flesh is nice and gooey. But at the Hump, they’re actually pulled, flopping madly, from a tank and their heads whacked off (to be deep-fried separately). It doesn’t get any fresher than that.

For the rest of the sushi, albacore is like butter, yellowtail dabbed with just the right amount of wasabi. Everything is presented strikingly, with just the right accompaniments.

Service is on top of its game, pleasant and efficient, and the airport location can’t be beat. The room itself isn’t the most romantic, but it has nice clean lines and for once you don’t have a glass case to peer over if you’re sitting at the sushi bar.

The prices, though, can kill you. Although two can eat well (non-omakase) for $200 after tax (including $60 of sake), one couple was spotted with a bill of $660. JL says that with four people, $1,000+ meals are all too possible. Caveat emptor…

The Hump [Beaches]
3221 Donald Douglas Loop S., Dewey, Santa Monica

Board Links: The Hump (Santa Monica)–Review (long)

Perfect New York Slices of Chicken Pizza

There are two rules for eating at Giovanni’s Pizza, a nondescript strip mall pizza joint. First, go on weekdays, not weekends. Turnover is really low on weekends, and the slices are just mediocre. But on weekdays, when the place is packed, it’s the best New York-style slice in Silicon Valley, says mdg.

Second rule: get the Giovanni’s Rustica slice, which comes topped with chicken breasts, basil, tomatoes, and lots of garlic. Chicken doesn’t always work on pizza, but it works like gangbusters here. It’s good enough to keep intrepid explorer katya coming back every three or four days. Pepperoni slices and cheese slices are, on the other hand, greasy and average.

Giovanni’s [South Bay]
1127 N. Lawrence Expy., Sunnyvale

Board Links: Giovanni’s in Sunnyvale: You Got Chicken on My Pizza! No, You Got Pizza on My Chicken!

Bin 8945 Worth Looking Into

An American wine bar and bistro, the new Bin 8945 may actually fill the void of a French bistro with deliciously straight-ahead food. Steak with frites ($29) is peppery and sweet, the fries cooked in duck fat for fantastic flavor. Duck leg confit ($27) is succulent and tender, arriving on a bed of flageolets, cavalo nero, and pancetta. Steamed mussels in coconut curry broth with homemade Italian sausage sounds like fusion gone overboard, but it actually works really well. And it’s easy to overlook the salt cod brandade, but it’s good stuff.

The star of the show, though, is the wine, and at the moment there’s a far bigger selection of vino than vittles (though the food side is scheduled to do some catch-up). To give you an idea: more than 60 wines by the glass. You might catch manager and wine director David Haskell bussing tables, decanting wine or greeting people–try to chat him up about wine.

Service is polished and professional, even opening week, and still friendly.

8945 Wine Bar and Bistro [West Hollywood]
8945 Santa Monica Blvd., Robertson, West Hollywood

Board Links: Zelo’s and Bin 8945
Bin 8945

Box It Up: Sushi to Go

You can get boxed sushi almost anywhere these days, but some otherwise reliable markets can trip up here. Always great when it comes to fish: Fish King. The versatile Japanese-run fish market (also a fine choice for fish and chips) has a huge and tasty spicy tuna roll for only $6. You can even call ahead and order fresh filets of your choice to be cut into sashimi.

Plain tuna is kind of dull, but yellowtail, salmon and albacore are all good. Sometimes you can even get something exotic like mirugai (giant clam) in small quantities.

Japanese markets like Nijiya are a great place to pick up sushi bento. The futomaki rolls are huge and generous, notes pinkshch, and the tempura shrimp rolls are very good as well.

PayorPlay adds that their selection has broadened lately to include dim sum items like cha shu bao (BBQ pork buns), shiu mai and har gow. They might also have Osaka-style battered sushi or salmon eggs with bits of tamago, cucumber and tuna over rice.

Mitsuwa and Marukai are good sources–Dommy loves Mitsuwa’s spicy crab roll, with real crab.

Davina recommends Farm Boy in Sherman Oaks.

Famima stores are popping up like mushrooms. At the one in Pasadena, mr mouther reports the fish is excellent and stands up even without the rice. But whynot had a totally different experience at an unidentified Famima, with way too much rice and tasteless fish.

Surprisingly, Trader Joe’s sushi–gummy, inedible monstrosities–is among the worst out there.

Fish King Seafood & Poultry [East San Fernando Valley]
722 N. Glendale Ave., North of 134 Fwy., Glendale

Nijiya Market [Sawtelle Strip]
2130 Sawtelle Blvd. #105, Los Angeles

Nijiya Market [Little Tokyo]
124 Japanese Village Plz. Mall, Los Angeles

Nijiya Market [South Bay]
2121 W. 182nd St., Torrance

Nijiya Market [South Bay]
2533 Pacific Coast Hwy., Torrance

Nijiya Market [Inland of LA]
17869 Colima Rd., City Of Industry

Mitsuwa Market in Yoahan Plaza [Little Tokyo]
333 S. Alameda St. #100, Los Angeles

Mitsuwa Marketplace [Beaches]
3760 S. Centinela Ave., Los Angeles

Mitsuwa Marketplace [South Bay]
21515 Western Ave
Torrance 90501

Mitsuwa Marketplace [San Gabriel Valley]
515 W. Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel

Mitsuwa Marketplace [South OC]
665 Paularino Ave., Costa Mesa

Marukai Market [South Bay]
1740 W. Artesia Blvd., Gardena

Marukai Pacific Market [South Bay]
1620 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena

Marukai Market [Little Tokyo]
123 S. Onizuka St., Suite 101, Los Angeles

Marukai Corp [Inland of LA]
1420 S. Azusa Ave., West Covina

Farm Boy [East San Fernando Valley]
14107 Riverside Dr., Hazeltine, Sherman Oaks

Famima [Pasadena-ish]
25 N. Raymond Ave., Pasadena

Famima [South Bay]
22529 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance

Famima [Beaches]
1348 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica

Famima [West Hollywood]
8525 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood

Famima [Wealthy Westlands]
1465 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles

Board Links: famima … alot of rice
rank the boxed sushi choices

A Dim Sum Steal

The best siu mai in Chinatown, declares K, can be found at Family Pastry: huge suckers filled with chopped, not ground pork, for only 40 cents each.

Family Pastry [Chinatown]
715 N. Spring St., Ord, Los Angeles

Board Links: A sad day for dim sum in LA….

Issan That Great: New Northern Thai/Lao Spot

There is now a second place in Norwalk to get your northern Thai (Issan)/Lao food fix, reports ScottE: Thai Issan. Lao-style chicken larb and Lao sausage are both good eating. The other Issan restaurant, of course, is the venerable Renu Nakorn.

Fresh from a visit to Lotus of Siam in Vegas (deemed by Jonathan Gold the best Thai restaurant in America), Mealcentric decided to check out its competition in these parts with back-to-back lunches at Thai Nakorn. Renu Nakorn is Lotus’s sister restaurant, but a lot of hounds prefer Thai Nakorn.

Overall, says Mealcentric, the food is a helluva lot tastier at Thai Nakorn, and the portions are about twice the size as Lotus’s. Make sure to get the crispy catfish and green papaya salad. The crunchy fish bits stand up great to the spicy sauce they swim in, along with whole roasted peanuts and shreds of papaya. Their regular green papaya salad pales in comparison. Nam sod with crispy rice is like a version of larb–ground meat “salad.” This one uses ground pork, and has less spice than the usual larb and more tang from lime juice and tons of shredded ginger. Crispy rice mixes up the texture. BBQ chicken is good enough, flavorful and juicy, to skip the sweet chile dipping sauce. BBQ beef, on the other hand, could use that delicious sauce–it’s pretty dry. Mango with sticky rice is perfect. Main drawback: service is reliably unreliable. “Be forewarned, plan to order all your food at once since there is a good chance you may never see your waitress again until the check comes.”

Although North Hollywood’s Sri Siam has changed owners, the chef is the same. sel assures us, and so is the food (always good). If you ask for the spiciness, they’ll bring it–all the way. Go for crab rangoon appetizer, catfish or duck curry, catfish larb, pad kee mao, Thai spaghetti or grilled beef salad. For dessert, the coconut ice cream on sweet sticky rice with toasted peanuts and jelly is a great alternative to mango with sticky rice.

Krua Thai is another touted Thai restaurant here, but sel says it’s hard to get seriously spicy food. Still, the 4-flavor fish, pad thai Krua Thai, pad kee mao and coconut smoothies are seriously good.

Thai Issan [Inland of LA]
14419 Pioneer Blvd., Rosecrans, Norwalk

Renu Nakorn Restaurant [Inland of LA]
13041 Rosecrans Ave., Shoemaker Ave., Norwalk

Thai Nakorn Restaurant [Little Saigon]
12532 Garden Grove Blvd, Palm, Garden Grove

Sri Siam Cafe [East San Fernando Valley]
12843 Vanowen St, Coldwater Canyon, North Hollywood

Krua Thai Restaurant [East San Fernando Valley]
13130 Sherman Way, Ethel, North Hollywood

Krua Thai Cuisine [Inland of LA]
935 S. Glendora Ave., West Covina

Board Links: New Issan Thai/Lao place
Back to back lunches at Thai Nokorn—long
Yummy NoHo Thai restaurants

El Farolito Report

El Farolito often gets props as a good, down-home Mexican joint, and Seth Chadwick gives us the dish on a recent meal. The restaurant: clean and roomy, decorated with Mexican art. The menu: comprehensive.

Cheese quesadilla is a great way to start: Hungry-Man size, stuffed with cheese, it’s grilled till deep golden brown. It’s fantastic with their salsa.

Cheese enchilada has tender, fresh corn tortillas, more great cheese and a sauce with a nicely smoky aftertaste.

Tender, tasty carne asada comes with charred onions and sliced jalapenos.

Machaca and eggs is a soothing combo, the eggs soft-scrambled and the shredded beef nice and moist. The beef gets a kick from jalapenos, but could use a bit more of other seasonings. It comes with lovely, lardy beans and OK rice.

A pork tamal proves to be a letdown: more masa than meat.

A meal for two, including drinks (one a forgettable melon margarita) is about $33. Cheese quesadilla is $2.75, cheese enchilada $2.75, carne asada $7.50, and pork tamal $3.

El Farolito [North OC]
201 S. Bradford Ave., Placentia

Board Links: Road Trip Review: El Farolito–Placentia, CA

Dispatch from Greensland

The special appetizer salad at Max, raves cvc, sports a green goddess dressing that rivals Chez Panisse’s. It comes on a simple combination of butter lettuce, cucumber, avocado, orange, and tomato, topped with fried scallions. It’s a retro flavor (capers, anchovy, cilantro, tarragon and mayo…or maybe sour cream) that can still surprise. Cost: $8.50.

Max Restaurant [East San Fernando Valley]
13355 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks

Board Links: A sublime salad